Does Your Group Reflect Your Community?

We are seeking ways to live together as we deal with constant changes in technology, communications to the far corners of the earth that sound like they're next door, moms and dads who work outside the home, single parents and families of every shape, size, make-up and socio-economic status. A variety of nationalities are represented in Canada. A variety of ideas, ways of doing things, vocations and professions are represented as well. It's what attracts us to Canada whether you have lived in the Canada all your life, or moved with your parents when you were young.

In this world of being very close to your neighbour but not knowing your neighbour, important questions are being asked, such as:

- Does our membership reflect our school community's population?

- Are we recruiting, training and developing skills for future leaders from all walks of life?

- Do we say we're diverse when we don't really actively recruit all parents?

Because of this increased awareness, organizations, not only Scouts Canada, are reevaluating their recruiting efforts. They're setting goals, making plans, working with resources in the community to touch more lives and progress toward respect for individuals.

First, the research . . .

What is the make-up of families in your area? You can get information from your school officials or community offices that describes the demographics represented in your school's community. Work with your group to decide who's missing. Questions to consider include:

What percentage of the scouting community:

- Consists of family members working outside the home?
- Has limited English proficiency? What are the predominating languages represented?
- Had grandparents who immigrated to Canada?
- Is available to participate during the day? During the evening?
- Attends functions scheduled during the day? During the evening?
- How are you approaching the variety of cultures represented in the community?

Then, armed with your goals, knowledge of the population and who you want to recruit, and with what you learned from other assisting organizations in your community, you can begin to create opportunities for your goals to be realized. Select activities that families will perceive as a need. Make sure that it directly applies to them and will benefit them. An effective way to promote Scouting is for you to show an interest and become involved in minority cultures and their activities.

Be visible and verbal.

As you are inviting parents and guardians of various ethnicities and walks of life to your group's activities, remember that a blanket invitation may not work. What is needed is face-to-face encounters, recognizing and respecting the potential member's cultural differences. (This is where those outside organizations you spoke to can be of great help. Find out what is culturally acceptable and what is not before you go.) Examine, too, the commitment required to be an leader or committee chair, or even a committee member. Does it take more time than most people can give? Actively invite the "missing members" to help, giving as much as they feel comfortable with. But don't ask them to do busy work. No one likes to feel they're being kept out of the way by being kept busy.

Remember, expanding your group's cultural base won't happen overnight. But, you must begin somewhere. By encouraging the families that are able to participate, word will spread to motivate other families to make special efforts to become involved. Look for different ways of inclusion. Many parents may not officially join Scouting, but will come to sponsored activities. So, promote activities that will address the needs and interests of the family; schedule activities at times when parents who work outside the home may be available; and present these activities in an inviting, non-threatening experience. You'll most likely find that increasing numbers will participate when your group is working for them.

Reproduced for by permission of Scouter Douglas Moore - Nova Scotia